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drethelin comments on Welcome to Less Wrong! (2012) - Less Wrong

25 Post author: orthonormal 26 December 2011 10:57PM

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Comment author: drethelin 01 January 2012 08:32:58PM 8 points [-]

I broadly agree that babies aren't people, but I still think infanticide should be illegal, simply because killing begets insensitivity to killing. I know this has the sound of a slippery slope argument, but there is evidence that desire for sadism in most people is low, and increases as they commit sadistic acts, and that people feel similarly about murder.

From The Better Angels of Our Nature: "Serial killers too carry out their first murder with trepidation, distaste, and in its wake, disappointment: the experience had not been as arousing as it had been in their imaginations. But as time passes and their appetite is rewhetted, they find the next on easier and more gratifying, and then they escalate the cruelty to feed what turns into an addiction."

Similarly, cathartic violence against non-person objects (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catharsis#Therapeutic_uses) can lead to further aggression in personal interactions.

I don't think we want to encourage or allow killing of anything anywhere near as close to people as babies. The psychological effects on people who kill their own children and on a society that views the killing of babies as good are too potentially terrible. Without actual data, I can say I would never want to live in a society that valued people as little as Sparta did.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 09:32:58AM *  4 points [-]

Can't this same be said of last trimester abortions?

In any case much like we find pictures or videos of abortion distasteful, I'm sure future baby-killing society would still find videos of baby killings distasteful. We could legislate infanticide needs to be done by professionals away from the eyes of parents and other onlookers to avoid psychological damage. Also forbid media depicting it except for educational purposes.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 10:35:07AM 0 points [-]

We could legislate infanticide needs to be done by professionals away from the eyes of parents and other onlookers to avoid psychological damage.

For legal reasons, there'd just have to be a clear procedure where parents would take or refuse the decision, probably after being informed of the baby's overall condition and potential in the presence of a witness. I can't imagine how it could be realistically practiced without one. Such a procedure could ironically wind up more psychologically damaging than, say, simply distracting one's parental instinct with something like intoxication and personally abandoning/suffocating/poisoning the baby.

Also forbid media depicting it except for educational purposes.

Potential for tension and cognitive dissonance. Few things in our culture are censored this way, not even executions and torture. Would feel unusually hypocritical.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 10:41:14AM *  6 points [-]

For legal reasons, there'd just have to be a clear procedure where parents would take or refuse the decision, probably after being informed of the baby's overall condition and potential in the presence of a witness. I can't imagine how it could be realistically practiced without one.

Humans are pretty ok with making cold decisions in the abstract that they could never carry out themselves due to physical revulsion and/or emotional trauma.

The number of people that would sign a death order is greater than the number of people that would kill someone else personally.

Potential for tension and cognitive dissonance. Few things in our culture are censored this way, not even executions and torture.

Does society feel conflicted bothered that child pornography is censored? We can even extend existing child pornography laws with a few good judicial decisions to cover this.

Would feel unusually hypocritical.

Read more Robin Hanson.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 January 2012 10:54:54AM 1 point [-]

Does society feel conflicted bothered that child pornography is censored? We can even extend existing child pornography laws with a few good judicial decisions to cover this.

Good point. If they aren't even people...

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 11:01:40AM 2 points [-]

In my own country pornography involving animals is illegal. It shows no signs of being legalized soon. And I live in a pretty liberal central European first world country.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 11:29:25AM 0 points [-]

I live in Russia and here the legal status of all pornography is murky but no law de facto prosecutes anything but production and distribution of child porn, and simple possession of child porn is not illegal. There's nothing about animals, violence, or such.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 10:46:36AM *  1 point [-]

The number of people that would sign a death order is greater than the number of people that would kill someone else personally.

Much greater? I think that people signing death orders for criminals could generally execute those criminals themselves if forced to choose between that and the criminal staying alive.

Does society feel conflicted bothered that child pornography is censored?

4chan could be an argument that it's beginning to feel so :) Society just hasn't thought it through yet.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 09:41:05AM *  -1 points [-]

Don't think so, because

1) such foetuses would likely only be seen by a surgeon if the abortion is done properly

2) they probably instinctively appear much less "person-like" or "likely to become a human" even if the mother sees one while doing a crude abortion on her own - maybe even for an evolutionary reason - so that she wouldn't be left with a memory of killing something that looks like a human.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 10:12:45AM *  5 points [-]

they probably instinctively appear much less "person-like" or "likely to become a human" even if the mother sees one while doing a crude abortion on her own - maybe even for an evolutionary reason - so that she wouldn't be left with a memory of killing something that looks like a human.

blinks

How can a LWer even think this way? I suggest you reread this. I'm tempted to ask you to think 4 minutes by the physical clock about this, but I'll rather just spell it out.

Lets say you are 8 months pregnant in the early stone age. What is a better idea for you, fitness wise, wait another month to terminate reproduction attempt or try to do it right now?

I'm even tempted to say there is a reason women kill their own children more often than men.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 January 2012 10:31:15AM 5 points [-]

I'm even tempted to say there is a reason women kill their own children more often than men.

Higher expected future resource investment per allelle carried?

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 10:43:00AM *  4 points [-]

More or less. I'm pretty sure that controlling for certainty of the child being "yours" and time spent with them, men would on average find killing their children a greater psychological burden in the long run than women.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 January 2012 10:53:00AM 1 point [-]

More or less. I'm pretty sure that controlling for certainty of the child being "yours" and time spent with them, men would on average find killing their children a greater psychological burden in the long run than women.

Because after all that time spent with them some start to find them really damn annoying?

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 11:04:40AM 4 points [-]

We get attached to children and lovers with exposure due to oxytocin. Only when the natural switches for releasing it are shut off does exposure cease to have this effect.

Finding them annoying is a separate effect.

Comment author: wedrifid 02 January 2012 02:03:03PM 1 point [-]

We get attached to children and lovers with exposure due to oxytocin. Only when the natural switches for releasing it are shut off does exposure cease to have this effect.

I'm trying to relate this to your theory that men find it harder to kill their infants than women do. The influence of oxytocin discourages killing of those you are attached to and mothers get more of this than fathers if for no other reason than a crap load getting released during childbirth.

Comment author: Bakkot 01 January 2012 09:27:36PM 8 points [-]

This is definitely the strongest argument I've been able to come up with for making infanticide illegal.

Unfortunately, there's a second slippery slope to watch out for: outlawing things which have the potential to lead to things which are illegal is a dangerous position for a government to take. The children of single mothers are a lot more likely to grow up criminal - should it be illegal to raise a child in a family without two parent figures? Working in retail makes you much more likely to commit violent crimes against the people you work with - should it be illegal to work in a retail job?

Certainly I don't think so, and I doubt you or other reasonable people do either. These things are certainly much less likely to lead to future crimes than infanticide is, but it's a difference of quantity, not quality. The problem is that I don't trust the government enough to make "doing this increases the likelihood that you'll commit a crime in the future" a sufficiently good reason to make something illegal.

Comment author: drethelin 01 January 2012 09:35:07PM 0 points [-]

We're not talking about making new laws, and we're certainly not encouraging the government to make in-discriminatory laws about things that are possibly bad. This is a law that already exists, where changing it would lead to a worse world. Feel free to campaign against those other laws you talked about coming into existence if someone tries to make them happen, but you shouldn't be trying to get baby killing legalized.

Comment author: Bakkot 01 January 2012 09:46:34PM 0 points [-]

Fair point, but if your position on infanticide and the reasons for the illegality thereof were accepted, I strongly suspect the government would start using this as a justification for passing other less savory laws. So this only works so long as the government doesn't make any effort to justify existing laws - which is, I suppose, probably going to be the case for the indefinite future.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 January 2012 01:32:32AM *  4 points [-]

I don't think we want to encourage or allow killing of anything anywhere near as close to people as babies.

By what criterion do you consider babies sufficiently "close to people" that this is an issue, but not late term fetuses or adult animals? Specific example, an adult bonobo seems to share more of the morally relevant characteristics of adult humans than a newborn baby but are not afforded the same legal protection.

Comment author: drethelin 02 January 2012 04:18:00AM 2 points [-]

I don't think killing bonobos should be particularly legal.

As far as fetuses, since my worry is psychological, I don't think there's a significant risk of desensitization to killing people since the action of going under surgery or taking plan b is so vastly removed from the act of murder.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 09:37:14AM *  4 points [-]

What if only surgeons are licensed for infanticide on request, which must be done in privacy away from parent's eyes?

That way desensitisation isn't worse than with surgeons or doctors who preform abortion, especially if aesthetics or poison is used. Before anyone raises the Hippocratic oath as an objection, let me give them a stern look and ask them to consider the context of the debate and figure out on their own why it isn't applicable.

Comment author: drethelin 02 January 2012 07:16:12PM 0 points [-]

I would probably be ok with this, though I don't see particularly strong incentives to put effort in to legalize it.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 09:51:20AM 0 points [-]

What if only surgeons are licensed for infanticide on request, which must be done in privacy away from parent's eyes?

The damage would've been already done elsewhere by that point. The parent would likely have already

1) seen their born, living infant, experiencing what their instincts tell them to (if wired normally in this regard)

2) made the decision and signed the paperwork

3) (maybe) even taken another look at the infant with the knowledge that it's the last time they see it

I feel that every one of those little points could subtly damage (or totally wreck) a person.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 10:04:46AM *  11 points [-]

I'm afraid you may have your bottom line written already. In the age of ultrasound and computer generated images or even better in the future age of transhuman sensory enhancement or fetuses being grown outside the human body the exact same argument can be used against abortion.

Especially once you remember the original context was a 10 month old baby, not say a 10 year old child.

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 10:14:01AM 6 points [-]

In the age of ultrasound and computer generated images or even better in the future age of transhuman sensory enhancement or fetuses being grown outside the human body the exact same argument can be used against abortion

Then I might well have to use it against abortion at some point, for the same reason: we should forbid people from overriding this part of their instincts.

Comment author: [deleted] 02 January 2012 10:28:58PM 2 points [-]

Upvoted for bullet-biting.

Comment author: FiftyTwo 02 January 2012 05:42:46PM 1 point [-]

Why is overriding of instincts inherently bad?

Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 08:06:38PM *  0 points [-]
Comment author: Multiheaded 02 January 2012 10:10:57AM *  0 points [-]

'm afraid you may have your bottom line written already.

First, I'm understandably modeling this on myself, and second, it doesn't really make this speculation any less valid in itself.

Comment author: Bakkot 01 January 2012 09:44:39PM 2 points [-]

(Separated from my other reply because it's a sparate point.)

Personally, I strongly doubt the incidence of infanticide-inspired sadism would be sufficiently higher in a culture in which infanticide were legal to justify keeping it illegal in this culture.

And I don't want to live in a society which views the killing of babies as good, or which values people less. I just don't want it to be illegal. I don't want to live in a society which encourages suicide, either, but I do think it ought to be legal.

Comment author: Multiheaded 01 January 2012 09:07:34PM *  0 points [-]

Thanks a lot. I fully support your line of thinking, all of your points and your conclusion.